A complex issue: Credit for time served

A complex issue: Credit for time served.

In the past four days, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has issued two opinions that deal with the issue of how to award credit for time spent incarcerated before sentencing or resentencing. The one appeal is out of Erie County, and it concerns the issue of how time spent in custody should be allocated to either a parole detainer or new charges.  And the other appeal is out of Monroe County, and it concerns the court’s discretion in awarding credit for time spent in programs that are part of the State Intermediate Punishment (SIP) program.  The holdings of each of the cases follow.

Comm. v. Gibbs, 2018 PA Super 62 (Mar. 19, 2018).  Relying on a prior case, Commonwealth v. Mann, 957 A.2d 746 (Pa. Super. 2008), the Superior Court instructed the trial court of the following:

All time served by a parole violator while awaiting disposition on new charges must be credited to the original sentence if the inmate remains in custody solely on a Board detainer.  If the inmate is incarcerated prior to disposition and has both a detainer and has failed for any reason to satisfy bail, the credit must be applied to the new sentence by the sentencing court.  If the new sentence is shorter than the time served, the balance can be applied to the original sentence, but the sentencing court must specify “time served” in the sentencing order for the new offense, so that the Board will be able to apply the credit.

Comm. v. Lee, 2018 PA Super 66 (Mar. 22, 2018).

This appeal was in the context of a revocation from the SIP program.  The trial court had a resentencing hearing and had allotted time-credit toward Lee’s new sentence, but from differing phases of the SIP program.  The trial court’s award of time credit was also based on the lack of a fully developed, factual record, and in that regard the Superior Court did not find an abuse of discretion.  The following points from the opinion are instructive:

  • Generally, “a defendant is entitled to credit for time he or she served in a court-ordered inpatient rehabilitation program but not for the time spent in a voluntary inpatient alcohol treatment.” Commonwealth v. Toland, 995 A.2d 1242 (Pa. Super. 2010).
  • However, “when a defendant voluntarily admits himself into an inpatient rehabilitation center, the decision whether to credit him for time-served is within the discretion of the trial court.” Commonwealth v. Conahan, 589 A.2d 1107 (Pa 1991).
  • The Superior Court nevertheless has “precluded credit for electronic monitoring imposed as part of an intermediate punishment sentence.” Commonwealth v. Maxwell, 932 A.2d 941 (Pa. Super. 2007).

Particular to the facts of this case, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s determination of time credit based upon the following reasoning.

While all of [Lee’s] time spent in the Scranton Community Corrections Center was court-ordered, i.e., part of his SIP sentence, upon our review of the foregoing decision authority, the limited certified record, and the trial court’s opinion, we find the trial court did not commit an error of law in determining that [Lee] was not entitled to credit for the days he spent in the Center.  Although he testified that he was required to report to the facility by nine o’clock each evening, he also admitted he was permitted to ‘gladly walk out,’ unaccompanied, to go to work each morning.  Accordingly, we find [Lee’s] time spent at that facility to be more akin to the time served on electronic monitoring in Maxwell, supra, as opposed to the twenty-four supervised “Outmate Program” analyzed in Tout-Puissant, supra.

Part of the take away from the Lee case is that if a defendant desires to make a pitch for time credit, it is wise that the defendant and/or counsel make part of the record the restrictions of the program at issue to satisfy the sentencing court, and the appellate court, that the defendant’s liberty was sufficiently constrained and he was in “custody.”